by Sam E. Stone
“Joshua . . . secretly sent two spies” (Joshua 2:1) to check out Jericho, a prominent city west of the Jordan River at the entrance to Canaan. The people of Israel were encamped in the plains of Moab, facing the Jordan and Jericho (Numbers 33:48, 49). You may remember that Joshua had been part of the original group of 12 spies Moses sent to investigate the land 40 years before. Only he and Caleb were still living at the time discussed in today’s lesson. All of the other adults had died during the years of wilderness wandering.
The ruins of Jericho are clearly visible today. It was an impressive city, well fortified with two thick walls. The young men sent to spy out the land went to the home of Rahab there. Some try to describe her simply as an “innkeeper,” but both Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 refer to her as a prostitute.
Rahab Hides the Spies/Joshua 2:2-9
The spies may have chosen the house of Rahab in an attempt not to arouse suspicion as two outsiders checking out the land. It also provided a location that was part of the city wall, which could facilitate a hasty departure if needed. Despite the attempts by the spies to avoid standing out in the crowd, the king got word of their presence. He sent messengers to Rahab saying, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
Rahab had already hidden the two spies, however. She fabricated a story to mislead the king’s messengers. “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” The messengers believed her and hurried off to try to locate the two on the road out of town. The gates of the city were shut for the night after the messengers had gone out. Then Rahab went to the roof where she had hidden the Israelites under stalks of flax that were drying there.
Rahab States Her Faith/Joshua 2:8-9, 15-16
“I know that the Lord has given this land to you,” she told them, adding, “A great fear of you has fallen on us.” Rahab went on to list some of the reports that had caused everyone in her country to be melting in fear. The people had heard about the parting of the Red Sea (when they escaped from Egypt), and how they conquered other pagan kings. Then she declared, “Everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
What a testimony for a pagan prostitute to make! Her words are reminiscent of the people of Israel at Mt. Carmel years later when God sent down fire from Heaven to devour Elijah’s sacrifice: “The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). R. L. Hubbard asks, “Who would have dreamed that this Canaanite woman knew Israel’s God by name (‘Yahweh’) and that she knew anything about his intended future for her homeland?”
Rahab then asked that the Israelites show kindness to her and all her family because of what she had done to protect them. The two spies quickly agreed. “Our lives for your lives!” If she did not betray them, they assured her that all of her family would have nothing to fear when their army conquered the land. They instructed her to tie a scarlet cord in the window to mark her house, and promised that the Israelites would leave everyone there unharmed. Rahab then let them down by a rope through the window.
The Spies Return to Joshua/Joshua 2:22-24
After those chasing the spies called off their search and returned to Jericho, the two men went back to the camp. They reported everything to Joshua. The news gave the Israelites new confidence. “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Their positive report stands in marked contrast with the “majority report” of the original spies sent out by Moses (Numbers 13:26-33). Because of her role in helping the Lord’s people, Rahab joined a select group of believing foreigners who acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty (e.g. Ruth, Naaman, King Nebuchadnezzar, and King Darius).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.